Bio

DON KETCHUM is a native of Phoenix. He was a sportswriter for The Arizona Republic/The Phoenix Gazette for nearly four decades. He covered high school sports on several occasions as well as the Arizona Diamondbacks, Arizona Cardinals and Arizona State sports. From 2008-14, he was a staff writer for AIA365.com, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Martin's memorial offers tears mixed with smiles

 There were tears, to be sure, but also plenty of smiles on the faces of the several hundred attendees at Saturday’s  (July 30) Celebration of Life for Laurie Martin, Xavier Prep’s late tennis coach who passed away on June 6 at the age of 59 when she fell at a family residence near Show Low.

The memorial was held at Founders Hall on the Xavier campus, and was viewed by about 100 more people on an Internet Live stream.

If anyone lived a full life, it certainly was Martin.

The theme of the day was, “Live Like Laurie.’’ Tables were decorated with some of her family photos and lavender wristbands with the theme printed on them. People could sign a card conveying a message to the family that will be part of an upcoming memorial book. Life-long photos of Martin flashed on screens around the room, along with a few brief videos in accompaniment to some of her favorite songs over the years.

RIP, Laurie Martin

She spent her early years in southern California but established roots when she moved to Tempe, where she graduated from McClintock High School and was active in numerous school activities. She also went on to graduate from Arizona State.

Some of Xavier’s administrators who worked closely with Martin were on hand for the event, including XCP President Sr. Joan Fitzgerald, XCP Principal Sr. Joanie Nuckols and Vice Principal for Activities and Athletic Director Sr. Lynn Winsor.

The crowd was told that Martin had a positive impact on everyone she met, and were asked if they thought they could be considered her best friend.

Winsor came forward and presented a “mini-biography’’ of Martin, who worked at Xavier for 17 years and produced five state championships and several state runner-up finishes.

Martin also drew praise for her example of family life with husband Stan (nearly four decades) and daughters Amanda, Courtney and Natalie and son Tanner, along with grandchildren.

“Her four children were her biggest fans,’’ Winsor said.

Son Tanner praised his mother, calling her his “Super Hero with Super Powers.’’

“She had a tireless work ethic,’’ he added, also mentioning her family dinners on Sundays.

Daughter Amanda, who with her sisters is a Xavier alumnus, played and coached tennis with her mother for the Gators and worked in the school’s human resources office before getting married, spoke of the birth of her first child when she was living out of state.

“My mom hopped on a plane – she did that for all of us – and came to where I lived when I had an emergency C-section,’’ Amanda said. “She used some of that energy of hers to decorate our house for Christmas.’’

Laurie Martin started a “no-cut’’ program for freshman players that would win her several awards for that maneuver. Every year, that program would draw at least 70 players.

“But she put her players first as people,’’ Amanda said. “When she first told people about the no-cut, they thought she was nuts. But look how that turned out. She wanted the players to gain some lifelong friends.

“And she lived her life with the utmost integrity.’’

Daughter Courtney called Laurie “a phenomenal grandma. I hope to be half the grandma she was to us. She had this commitment of living every day to its fullest.’’

Daughter Natalie said that her mother would be proud.

“She died knowing that we are all doing well,’’ Natalie said.

Natalie is amazed by her mother’s physical conditioning, including some noteworthy dance moves. She asked the attendees to stand and go through some of the moves, which got everybody laughing.

Former Xavier players Meg Yuan and Jordan Craft spoke of being coached by Martin, a part of what they estimated was about 2,000 players she coached at Xavier over her 17 years, producing a 271-16 record.

Laurie Martin also has been involved over the years at the national level through the United States Tennis Association, winning awards, and worked closely with Tracy Becker, a long-time friend and former teammate at McClintock. Becker listed many of the highlights with USTA.

Personal remembrances

As The XCP Files author, I would like to include a few remembrances of Laurie Martin.

Laurie always was good-natured and carried herself in a professional manner when I would come out for a match or write a feature story.

*In the early days of her no-cut freshman program, and when The XCP Files started, we would chat and combine those subjects. She touted the benefits of her program even then, and when she would go to national meetings of tennis officials, she would mention The XCP Files and told them how the coverage helps the development and maintenance of the school’s athletic programs.

Some of the other coaches were somewhat envious, as in, “Gee, we kind of wish we had that at our school.’’

I always appreciated that she would go to bat for me like that.

*At the Gators’ matches, you need not look too far to know where she was. Wearing her trademark straw hat, and sitting in a big folding chair for road and state matches, she would encourage her players with two simple words, “GO ZAVE-YURR.’’

*Another thing with the voice. It wasn’t screaming loud, but it got her point across. I would hear that same voice when she would give lessons on Wednesdays at courts across the street from our home (we both lived in the same Tempe development at the time). The voice was unmistakable as she instructed her adult players.

“She’s out there,’’ my wife, Carol, would say.

*Laurie and I shared an interesting fact: we both had a grandson with a creative, noteworthy first name – Wyatt. And I always tried to ask her how her Wyatt was doing.

*During this spring’s state doubles tournament, Xavier’s Ryan Kershner and Dani Dyer captured the championship. I went to Martin for a comment for my story, but she graciously suggested that assistant coach Ford Oliver should provide his thoughts, giving him a little “publicity.’’

That showed a lot of class.

So, in honor of Laurie, the next time you go to an XCP match, say, “GO ZAVE-YURR.’’

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Flag football on the way to becoming a big deal

 Before you know it, it will be 2023, time for the Valley to host a big football event.

VERY BIG.

But no, it won’t be Super Bowl LVII at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, on Feb. 12.

So would you believe . . .

How about Xavier Prep’s participation for the first time in a club football season?

Now we’re talking.

The Gators also will play about eight or so games next spring, with home contests on Petznick Field’s artificial surface that is being refurbished after about a dozen years of wear and tear, with completion expected by the end of the summer.

It is another example of Xavier athletic director Sr. Lynn Winsor and her staff to come up with as many opportunities for her athletes to thrive and perhaps earn scholarships at the college level, a primary element of Title IX, a national push by administrators such as Winsor to bring greater notoriety to women’s sports.

Flag football will be listed as a club sport, as is another spring team at XCP, lacrosse. Winsor doesn’t believe it will have any bearing on the girls to succeed – they just want to win. The eventual goal, of course, is to be recognized as a full sport by the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

“Kids have played the sport here at Xavier in the past (in physical education classes) and it was well-received,’’ she said. “After the (flag) announcement was made, we got several calls from kids who told us how excited they are.’’

Teams will have a roster in the low 20s, with games featuring 7 on 7. That should give the coaches the necessary flexibility they need.

Winsor already has lined up a coach.

He is Mike Patterson, who for the past eight seasons has been an assistant coach and assistant defensive coordinator for neighboring Brophy Prep’s traditional football program, and will continue in that role.

Patterson’s daughter, Mikayla, will be a freshman at XCP this fall and is expected to play for the Gators.

Coach Patterson said he has worked with “linebackers, defensive backs, everything’’ over the years. It will be refreshing for him to be involved with a full game plan.

“Sister Lynn and I met and want to move the program ahead. I think we have the same mindset,’’ Patterson said. “I’d like to have a few fall camps going, and if the girls come out and they like it, maybe they can get the word around (to interest others). Xavier has had a lot of talented athletes over the years.’’

One thing that team members should be able to do is run. That is one of the primary aspects of the game, such as defending against an opponent and chasing them down and reaching out to grab the flags.

Individual expenditures perhaps are not as draining as they might be for some sports. The primary cost would be for cleats and mouth guards. The teams will wear uniforms, provide footballs and flags, with the possibility of smaller protective headgear, not full helmets like the boys wear.

So which schools would serve as opponents for the Gators?

The Chandler Unified School District had most of its schools involved last season, Chandler High, Chandler Hamilton, Chandler Basha, Gilbert Perry and Queen Creek Casteel, along with Arizona College Prep. Two Ahwatukee schools, Mountain Pointe and Desert Vista, should be in the mix, as well as some of the Gilbert district schools. Patterson said Chandler Seton Catholic could be a possibility.

The season will run from the first week of March through mid-April. That means a lot of figuring out which Xavier teams will have which days and times for practice and games at Petznick – flag football, softball and lacrosse. Patterson said it is possible his team could possibly work into a schedule that includes Saturdays.

Field upgrades would include new water cannons to keep the artificial turf cooler, LED lighting, safety padding on the poles, among other items.